How to get exposure? This is the question every startup (and many businesses) want to know. It's difficult to get started from nothing, when you have no audience, no email list, and no reputation. But people do it.
We interviewed 7 startups to find out what they're doing. Here are their answers and stories.
- Jesper Faurby - Founder & Partner of Filecamp
- Oscar A. Morales - Founder & Partner of qwery.ninja & Pollstr
- Ivan Mojsilovic - Co-founder at Yanado
- Arielle Hurst - Content Marketer at Purechat
- Vincent Cassar - Founder at Keeping
- Johanna Both - Founder at Tappointment
- Bohdan Taranenko - CEO at Privatoria
Founder & Partner of Filecamp
Filecamp is a personal dream of mine, to give graphic designers and businesses that work with media files a better tool for sharing and collaborating.
As a graphic designer and head of IT at major design firms here in Denmark, I saw how broken tools were getting in the way of the creative process.
My friend and cofounder Keld is an amazing architect when it comes to web technologies.
He's got a thing or two to say about buildings, which you might argue, but when it comes to engineering rock solid web frameworks, he's always spot on.
When we got together it was magic. A sort of left-brain right-brain thing, but there were two brains, so we were doubly effective.
Joking and humor is something that's important to us because we work a lot of long hours.
We try to reflect some of our personality on our Blog where you can read about topics such as why Building a startup is a lot like cooking meth.
The parallels between startup life and the popular tv show Breaking Bad were too funny to pass up.
So we like to share that sense of humor while letting our clients know we are serious when it comes to delivering a rock solid platform for online sharing and collaboration.
Wetruly enjoy serving our clients.
We're fortunate to serve some notable blue chip firms such as The Wall Street Journal, LEGO and HBO, and global corporations including Trivago, Unilever and FSC.
Because we offer a professional and affordable file sharing solution, many of our clients are designers and small business owners too.
It's quite cool, we've got an amazing range of clients from freelancers to firms.
The businesses we serve are finding creative ways to use Filecamp to meet their clients' needs.
I look at the way Jim Wright-Roberts at The Superbike Surgery uses Filecamp and I think it's totally awesome.
He's built this Digital Service Record using our platform, and his clients love it!
So we really enjoy seeing our clients, and our clients' clients happy.
The improvements to our platform are based on the feedback we receive from the people that use Filecamp. Since version 1, everything we do is dedicated to making it better for you.
Our marketing efforts recently are driven by our clients too.
We want to spotlight the work they are doing with Filecamp.
The Superbike Surgery is one example, Glen Webster and his work at Creative Momentum is another.
With version 4 on the horizon, we're more dedicated than ever to providing an elegant tool for sharing files and collaborating online.
We're committed to making our clients' lives easier each day.
There's sure to be more long hours ahead, though there will be plenty of jokes to keep us laughing too.
Oscar A. Morales
Founder & Partner of qwery.ninja & Pollstr
Pollstr is an open text classification web tool.
I know it sounds complicated, but it’s not. Pollstr has an advanced algorithm with Learning Machine, Supervised and Unsupervised Learning and Economics.
Imagine all the comments, opinions, reviews, feedback, etc. that it is out there and that no one has time to read through and categorize.
Pollstr does it. It has 2 main function: Explore will give you a naive and quick classification of your text, with no previous data using complex statistical analytics; Classify will learn how you have classified before and then continue classifying on its own (you just had to feed/teach Pollstr with a previous classification and that’s it).
Classify has been tested by the British Election Study.
Pollstr gave a 98% confidence level compared to a human classification.
A human classified 1,000 open text entries in a week (taking a sample).
Pollstr did it less than 5 minutes analyzing all text entries.
Pollstr currently analyzes in 6 languages: English, Spanish, Italian, German, French and Portuguese.
And we’ve recently launched our API.
It gives the user the flexibility to analyze open text from any source! Imagine you’re a business owner, and you get tons of comments in Yelp, wouldn’t it be easier and faster to extract the text and just run it via Pollstr?
You could get insights in seconds.
So Pollstr is mainly a B2B service for polling companies and advertising/marketing agencies.
We also wanted to reach a greater consumer market and we created Qwery Ninja.
Qwery Ninja is our B2C service. It consolidates digital opinions, feedback, comments, etc. In a single place.
It analyzes them in real time and in six languages as well.
Qwery Ninja uses Pollstr’s API and it’s a clear example of our text algorithm capabilities.
In Qwwery Ninja our target audience is mainly social media influencers and stars.
These influencers get massive amounts of information as comments and opinions that they could profit from.
Both products are 100% operational and free to try! www.pollstr.io and www.qwery.ninja
We’ve tried several methods for exposure only.
Facebook and Twitter Ads have not been of great help for our website exposure, it works for the account within FB and Twitter.
Our FB page posts had good engagements investing about 40-50USD.
We also invested about 100USD on Twitter Ads which increased tweet interactions but didn’t really go through our website.
Both campaigns were designed to bring people to Qwery Ninja and interact with the platform.
A potential mistake here could’ve been not focusing on growing a community first in either platforms.
Adwords has worked wonderful by increasing exposure.
We have very low click costs and a constant page view above 300 every time we activate the ads.
Unfortunately we lack conversion rate: transforming visitors into active users (even if it’s without paying for now).
How have we changed strategy?
We thought our website wasn’t attractive enough so we just changed Pollstr completely.
We’ve added some call to action phrases and buttons.
We are also working on white paper for both products to show the potential and the easiness of use.
Both literally work with 2 buttons. We have also implemented the use of www.happycryborg.com.
It’s an awesome Twitter manager.
We usually had to put over 3-5 hours a day to engage with our desired audience.
Happy Cyborg does it for, and it is also not those annoying robots that always post the same or follow just one pattern.
It took us about 2 days uploading our “personality” into Happy Cyborg and now our twitter account is on 1200/1000 Followers/following rate in about 2 weeks.
We still have to find good content to share and follow up to people that write us but it has decreased our time consumption in about 80-90%.
What’s next? We’re looking for endorsement.
We’re working on the British Election Study to give us a mention/endorsement.
We’ll also start working with the biggest university in Mexico for a white paper.
At the same time, we’re also participating in Wayra for the accelerator program and actively looking for users and partners to use both products and start getting revenue.
We launched in January 2015 Pollstr and Qwery Ninja in March 2015.
Yanado is a project & task management tool inside Gmail. My co-founder and I are coming from the software development outsourcing world where we did numerous projects for our clients. Besides outsourcing, we also had one product based startup selling cloud document management solution.
In both cases we had to manage lots of projects and clients.
We tried top tools but none of those stuck. They were difficult to use, distracting and they constantly fought for our focus forcing us to leave whatever we were working on in order to update progress.
Not to mention thousands of unread notification emails.
Eventually we decided to do something about it.
If all those tools are doing the same thing, sending email notifications asking as to come to their tool in order to update the progress, we should make a tool that will be right there inside your inbox.
No more spammy emails you never read, no more losing focus by jumping back and forth between Gmail, project management tool and your IDE if you’re a developer.
Everything you need is inside your Gmail. As for notifications, you will receive a message and alert inside your Gmail without polluting the inbox.
Not to mention you will actually see it on time.
That was a short story about how we decided to build Yanado.
We noticed 3 major groups of our users. Sales people, software development teams and freelancers of all kind.
I guess sales teams hate their CRM and they use Yanado as much as they can, but they are a big surprise for us.
Software development teams (startups, agencies etc) are users we were expecting we will have.
All their project related communication in done in one place and they can focus on the work instead of the figuring out where they should update their progress.
As for freelancers, it’s quite obvious that they use Gmail for client communication and with Yanado they get the ultimate management tool for their work.
We tried many distribution channels and what seems to work best in this stage is press releases.
Once we get featured in some magazines or blogs, new users are coming like crazy.
We tried the content marketing and it worked to some extent.
Not because content marketing is bad, it’s because of we apparently aren’t that good at it.
We’re still trying to figure out content marketing strategy.
The best results we got from series of reviews of business applications.
Check it out, you mind find something useful there.
With better content marketing strategy and NinjaOutreach, I’m quite sure we can get very good results in the future.
Content Marketer at Purechat
1. If you can, *start as a free product*. For the first two years we were around, Pure Chat was written up in tons of articles and product roundups because it was A) awesome and B) 100% free.
This helped boost our SEO and lead us to become the #1 result for the phrase ""free live chat,"" which helped us gain a ton of traction.
That way when we did add paid plans, there was already a captive audience of current users!
2. *Make your customers your advertisers*. Every one of Pure Chat's livechat popups says ""Powered by Pure Chat"" at the bottom with a link to our site.
In aggregate, these links are our #1 referrer and we don't have to pay a dime for them!
3.* Keep it simple*. In a space like live chat where there are lots of players, it's easy to get into a ""feature race"" where you're not developing for your target market, you're developing to maintain feature parody with top competitors.
That's why at Pure Chat we've taken extra care to make sure we're creating the right features for small businesses (like free mobile apps for owners who are constantly on the go) in the simplest way possible.
Founder at Keeping
Keeping™ is the world’s first helpdesk that works inside Gmail.* Keeping™ adds helpdesk functionalities to any Gmail or Google App email accounts.
It lets your team collaborate and save time while helping you deliver better customer support, directly from your current mailbox.
Instead of having to migrate your support channel externally, you can add customer support functionalities directly to any Gmail or Google App account.
We're about to open the gates publicly at the end of the week. So far over 2000 businesses have beta tested Keeping.
We've also been chosen by Google in Munich, Germany to participate in their startup program.
I feel you may also be interested in reading Growth Hacking where share the various growth hacks we've implemented to grow our startup.
Founder at Tappointment
Tappointment is an award-winning, integrated life organizer that helps small businesses in different industries easily optimize their capacity while increasing customer satisfaction.
My team’s goal was to develop an App to make appointment scheduling super easy, available 24/7, anytime from anywhere, for both professionals and their clients.
And we didn’t stop there. Our team is full of ideas for new features to customize it for any kind of business from beauty professionals to dentist or photographers.
We plan to tailor certain features to fit the business you’re in.
For example, say you’re a micro entrepreneur giving business advice through Skype.
Think of how easy it would be to publish your availabilityfor others to see and watch your calendar fill up automatically with interested people who may become potential clients.
Just like all other B2B startups, we were struggling to find the right channels to communicate with our target market.
Not to mention the fact that while our solution is targeting both parties of an appointment - the professional and his client -we had to decide which one comes first (the classic chicken and egg problem 🙂 .
Decisions had to be made though, and as the growth hacker of the team, I’ve spent the past year testing out everything - from the very weird ideas, like organic #hashtag hacking, to the classic ppc ads or link building.
Small budget - big dreams. This sounds familiar, right?
So it is not a surprise that I’m always looking for free or almost free tools and ways when it comes to exposure or lead generation.
Life today is all about beingsocial - so we started to organically build up a network and strategies connected to all possible platforms.
No paid followers and likes, just tools like Socialbro can help segment and allow you to easily follow your target audience on Twitter.
The search and filter feature is awesome; for example I can look for hairdressers only in the Boston areawho are active at least once a day on twitter and have more than 1,000 followers.
You can follow them or download them (paid version) in a spreadsheet to use for a twitter ad campaign.
It’s slower than buying a list of users, but in the long term will hopefully be worth it so that you can have quality people in your network.
We do some similar things on other social media, but those are a little more time-consuming, and we still haven’t found the best tool yet.
What about the #hashtag hack? It works best on Twitter of course - the founder of the magical hashtags 🙂 Get into the conversation when you find someone with a problem you can give a solution to.
Use a tool like Tweetdeck and look for something you can reply to and it won’t be considered spamming.
How? We are looking for tweets about professionals promoting themselves and their services like “Call to book my available spots for tomorrow with 30% discount”.
Goal: find them and reply to the tweet with an offer to let them know that we have a better solution for filling up their calendar with appointments.
The minimum value we got from these is at least a follow or a visit to our website.
Link building is time consuming, but I’m sure this is not new news for you.
We started with startup listing sites - some free and some paid. The best value is getting exposure and for finding partnerships with other startups or advisors.
We continue with forums connected to our main industries - like beauty association or magazines.
And link building never stops –you just have to be sure that you choose pages that have a better ranking than yours,otherwise you will be killing your organic Google position.
Google and paid search have been my favorites for more than 8 years now.
I believe that people are more interested in a product or service at the pre-final step when they are already looking for it.
Unfortunately Adwords has been getting more and more expensive because of the huge competition.
However, if you are spending some time finding and testing out the “long tail keywords” for your target market, you can reach a niche for far cheaper.
There are lot of free tools from Google and others to help you out with this and suggest some ideas.
As I mentioned, we spent time testing out different channels with the goal to at least get some visitors to our website.
We didn’t start spending money on Adwords in the beginning, but I had already set up all the Analytics and Adwords tools to measure and follow these visits.
This helped me build a list of those who would be worth Retargeting.
As you may know retargeting lists in Adwords need at least 100 members in a given period before you are able to retarget them.
So when I started the campaign, I already had a list that was ready to use.
I split up my retargeting list so that I could make more personalized ads.
For example, if they came from a social ad, that means that they had already seen some of our banners, so I retargeted them with something similar so that they would become more familiar with our style/logo, and they would have the sense that they know, us from somewhere - even if they didn’t really spend too much time on our site previously.
One thing that is for sure is that there will always be big differences between the different growth hacking tools/channels that you use for different target markets (B2C or B2B), industries, or even the product/service you are trying to sell. So the above may work better for some and not for others. So try, fail, try. Try again. Fail again. Fail better :)"
CEO at Privatoria
Privatoria is a unique Internet security service provider. Our main goal is to provide an all-in-one security solution.
Unlike traditional security software solutions available on the market today, Privatoria’s products use a complex approach towards protecting online privacy.
Three main ‘NOs’ for Privatoria are:
- No data mining
- No extra software
- No backdoors
There is a free trial for 24 hours. It’s easy to use and no special knowledge or software configuring skills are required.
Privatoria was born as an unified solution for users looking for anonymity and security during web browsing when communicating or sharing data.
Our mission is to make the Internet a safer place so user don't have to worry about the security of their private data or search/browsing history.
To make that possible, our company's security specialists have come up with a bundle of security services.
Who can use Privatoria:
Personal users: All Internet users that care about online privacy, have sensitive data or simply want online freedom.
Anyone from a student who wants to open blocked Facebook, to an activist, or a journalist who does not want to be tracked is a potential user of Privatoria's online privacy suite.
Business users Privatoria understands the problem of security for different types of companies.
That’s why we are currently working on a business version which will be useful for attorneys that need to protect legal professional privilege, for doctors to make sure doctor-patient privilege is not violated, for companies that have commercial secrets, financial and IT companies, politicians and law enforcement agencies, etc...
Privatoria offers solutions in three categories
Surf the web anonymously (for users who do not want to be tracked by search engines, marketing companies, ISPs, hackers, governments and others) Secure Proxy service offers reliable Proxy connections in more than 63 countries.
The TOR technology is used in unison with a Proxy by default; which is an exclusive offer and gives additional anonymity to users.
Secure VPN service offers ultimate security and anonymity during web browsing.
Currently you can choose from 11 VPN locations all over the world.
Support for all modern and secure protocols and algorithms is also available; including L2TP/Ipsec, OpenVPN, etc. You also get SHA1 AES 256 encryption to ensure no gets access to your Internet traffic.
The main feature of Privatoria VPNs is the ability to use VPN through TOR without any advanced tweaks or extra software. It doubles your anonymity level.
Secure communications online (for those who want to secure their online communications and make sure chat logs won't leak).
Our Secure E-mail gives you instant access to your personal e-mail box with @privatoria.net domain.
Your correspondence will be encrypted and sent via Secure SSL connection. Secure Chat takes real-time web communication to a new level of security.
Based on new WebRTC technology it allows direct peer-to-peer connection between browsers without third-party apps and any logs.
Secure data transfer online (to transmit sensitive data that requires encrypted secure online storage which standard cloud storage services cannot offer).
Secure Data Storage offers high levels of encryption for customer's data stored on our secure servers.
Each file is strongly encrypted and protected by a unique ID.
How we attract users?
Privatoria uses custom approaches to get user's attention.
We strive to provide relevant guides and tips on security so that our customers get all of the necessary information in one place.
As of 2015, Internet users have just started realizing the security threats that have become wide spread throughout the web.
We provide solutions for ultimate security and privacy.
The ultimate security, however is not an action, it's a complex procedure.
That is why, even when using our security tools, users have to take certain measures themselves (e.g clean cookies, use free WiFi only via VPN, etc...).
Unfortunately, an average user is not aware of these vitally important security precautions.
Henceforth, we strive to guide users on how they can ensure their online security using, among other things, Privatoria's tools.
Our blog embodies this idea. In our blog we try to showcase the most common Internet security threats and how to react to them.
This is not a geek blog that only computer science engineers can understand; on the contrary, any computer user can read our articles and get useful info out of them.
Great examples are:
How to avoid NSA tracking
Hack: VPN and Proxy for Saving Money on Online Booking of Hotels and Airplane Tickets
Security guide for journalists
How to send passwords and files without fear
7 Tips to follow when you use a VPN
At the end of the day Privatoria is a service for just about anyone who values their online security and privacy.
People who surf the web, communicate and share/store sensitive data online may want ultimate protection and that is exactly what we offer.
As of 2015, Privatoria offers unique combinations of security services as a single bundle; implementing cutting-edge security technologies for both private and corporate usage